My three-year-old has developed an annoying habit of jokingly referring to me as “little boy.” It kind of drives me nuts, so we’re trying to get him to knock that off (and have had moderate success).

But probably one reason it bugs me is that he’s not necessarily wrong. Same goes for my daughter who charmingly insists that I really am still at least “one or maybe two drops of a woman.” (I don’t mean the charming ironically here, her assessments of gender, in general and mine specifically, are pretty amazing).

I was put in touch with a guy who transitioned at my university a few years ago as someone who might have some insight into helping things go smoothly as I figure out what to do at work. He was traveling through our area over this weekend and we were able to meet. He’s a very down-to-earth guy, with related enough scientific leanings that conversation jumped easily between strategies for coming out to advisors and our current research.

He is about 8 years my junior in chronological (and academic) time, and probably about 3 years “older” than I am in trans time. I was both looking back at where he is in grad school, offering thoughts from my spot several years down the line, and looking forward to where he is, comfortably transitioned in his academic life (and the rest of his life as well). Internally, I felt myself fluctuating between feeling younger and older than him.

Over the last year, I have felt like I’m 8 years old, like I’m 15, like I both want to claim my experiences (and hopefully a little wisdom gained) over my actual 35 years, and like I want to pretend I’m not really this old, that I won’t basically be nearly 40 by the time I’m “done” transitioning. I find myself wishing I was closer to, I don’t know, maybe 25 or so — old enough to have some maturity but young enough to have a lot more time left. And what do I mean by time left? I think I mean mean more time to be young in a body and a gender that fits, or fits better. I know wishing doesn’t change anything, and I know the only way to where I am now was the way I came, and it took how long it took, but I still feel a little wistful.

Managing all of these selves, the little boy, the angsty teenager, the responsible grown-up just a little bitter about getting older, can get a little taxing. For this year, maybe I can focus on keeping the best parts of each — the sense of adventure in that boy, the honesty and sensitivity of the teenager and the steadiness, perseverence and strength of the grown-up. I’ll try to leave behind the impulsivity, whininess and worry. It may be a lot to manage, but one thing is truly undeniable: I am very much alive, so much more alive than one year ago. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

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